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Secretary of Defense's Congratulatory Message to the U.S. Armed Forces

By Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 24, 2003 – It gives me great pleasure to congratulate each man and woman in America's Armed Forces for the honor of being named this year's "Person of the Year" by Time magazine. It is an honor you have earned not only this day, or this year, but throughout your volunteer service.

Ever since the Minutemen first mustered to America's defense in the early days of our nation, America's fighting forces have stood ready, at a moment's notice, to defend the lives and liberties of our citizens whenever and however they were threatened. Through two world wars, and dozens of smaller conflicts, the American soldier has never foundered and has carried the light of liberty to millions who suffered under countless tyrants and dictators.

During the long, cold struggle against communism, U.S. forces, with our stalwart allies, were the watchmen who stood sentry on the frontiers of freedom until freedom prevailed, and communism collapsed under the weight of its tyranny.

With this new century have come new battles in a new kind of war the global war against terrorism. And again, America's fighting forces are at the front -- taking the war to the terrorists and bringing freedom to millions who, for decades, had lived in fear.

What remarkable feats you have accomplished since this war began: two nations liberated from brutality and oppression; 50 million people freed to live out their futures without fear; many senior al Qaeda operatives captured or killed; and terrorist cells discovered and dismantled.

Last Holiday Season, the Iraqi people suffered under the boot of a brutal dictator who murdered innocent citizens. Today, thanks to you, that same dictator -- found cowering in a hole of his own making -- now awaits justice for his heinous crimes. Each of you helped make that possible. And in so doing, you have made every American proud of who you are and what you do for all of us every day.

Time magazine called you the "face of America, its might and good will,"and that you are. You are also the face of America's determination to stop the new tyranny of terrorism. And that you will do, because in addition to all that is new new threats and challenges, a new mission, a new way of fighting, new technologies, and a new kind of war you bring to the fight the oldest of virtues: honor, integrity, courage, dignity, and discipline.

September 11th, 2001, ushered in a new era, but the world still looks to America for leadership and strength. As our commander in chief, President Bush, said when this war began, "If America wavers, the world will lose heart. If America leads, the world will show courage."

I know that America will not waver. I know this because you represent America's heart and America's courage. You stand, as you have always done, on the front line between freedom and fear. And you are doing a magnificent job. The American people are properly proud of you.

There will likely come a day when terrorists can little threaten the world; when nations no longer harbor or support them, because the price for doing so has become too high; when terrorism as a method of waging war or oppressing a people has been as thoroughly discredited as we have seen slavery and piracy discredited. And while we are not there yet, and we may never be there completely and finally, we are making giant steps forward thanks to your determination and your courage.

Each of you has paid a personal price. Some of your comrades have made the ultimate sacrifice. For all you are and for all you do, you have the thanks of a nation, which is proud of your service and grateful for your sacrifice.

To all of you stationed far from home and loved ones this Holiday Season, know that our hearts and prayers are with each of you and with your families, who also sacrifice.

Congratulations on the well-deserved honor of being named Person of the Year! You deserve it. May God bless you and keep you safe, and God bless America.

Donald H. Rumsfeld

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Time Magazine Selects American Soldier as Person of the Year


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